AUSTIN, Texas -- The fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants remains in limbo as the Supreme Court continues to deliberate DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
- DACA recipient Pedro Villalobos now a Travis County prosecutor
- Future of DACA now rests with United States Supreme Court
- Villalobos says misunderstanding exists over DACA, immigration process
As Dreamers wait to see what the high court decides, an Austin-area man is taking time to reflect on his journey.
Pedro Villalobos is one of Travis County’s family violence prosecutors. It’s a job he says he wouldn’t have been able to get without the DACA program.
Now that the future of the program is up in the air, he feels it’s important to get to know the faces behind DACA.
“In order for [someone to take] the Texas bar exam, you have to have a work permit at the minimum. I didn’t have that,” Villalobos said.
He didn’t have a permit because he was undocumented. Then, in 2012, President Barack Obama created DACA.
“I was right there at the point of graduating and not knowing what I was gonna do,” Villalobos recalled. “So, for me, the program was beneficial and it allowed me to go forward in my career path.”
That made Villalobos one of roughly 700,000 so-called Dreamers. He was well on his way to a law career.
“For me, without DACA, I would not be able to practice law,” he said. “I would not be able to serve the community of Travis and I wouldn’t be able to help people in situations that involve domestic violence.”
That wasn’t the end of his story. In fact, his future remains in jeopardy.
“I try not to think about that a lot. Me and hundreds of thousands of others of us are living on two-year increments because that’s how long we’re having our work permit for,” Villalobos said.
“It’s just unfortunate that every single day, I represent the state of Texas in these cases,” Villalobos continued. “I stand up there, the judge says ‘Who’s representing the state?’ I say my name. But, in this particular issue, the state is not representing me. In fact, the state is advocating against me and against the program I benefited from.”
Villalobos blames a lack of understanding of how the immigration process works and how DACA functions by the public and those in power.
“You always hear people say, ‘Why don’t you get in line? Why don’t you do it the right way?’ But if you understand the way our complex immigration works [it’s] that there is no line that people can get into,” Villalobos said.
“For the majority of my life, I was in a line to obtain legal, permanent residency, but the way our immigration laws are written, I was kicked out at the age of 21,” Villalobos continued.
Villalobos is now 28 years old and back to square one. Still, he’s hopeful.
“My community, the DACA community, isn’t gonna go anywhere,” he said. “We’re everywhere. We’re attorneys, we’re doctors, we work at restaurants, we work in the grocery store. We call our communities home, and while we may not be wearing something or have an emblem for us that shows that we’re beneficiaries, we’re everywhere.”
Villalobos said he didn’t pursue immigration law because it’s too personal and emotional for him.